The Next Chapter

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My friend told me a story once about a lovely day trip she had with her mum.

She was young, and they had some precious time to visit the city and to see a show together.  In later years she lost her mum, and though she assures me that her childhood was more special than ever imaginable, there is one thing I know that she wishes she could have.

I know she wishes that she could remember all of the small things about that trip, what they ate, where they stayed, all the tiny details.  All the details that do not matter to anyone else but you, and yet some memories do stay.  Somewhere deep inside you memories and feelings stay locked away because they matter a great deal.  I suppose that is how our friendship began really.  As I panicked that I was going to disappear from my children’s memory she helped to show me that actually my children would be just fine, if that day should ever come.  I know this not because of what she has told me, but because of who she is and what she has achieved – it made me realise that my Isla and Noah would not just crumble, they would become determined to make me proud one day.

More recently I almost asked her (as if she needed anymore questions) what she thought I should do about continuing to take my medication (Tamoxifen)?  I stopped short though because I knew what the answer would be.  I knew that if her mum had been given the treatment available to us nowadays for breast cancer that she would have gratefully taken it.  And so that is what I have duly done.  It is my choice as a mother.

As the days go by I have often pondered how I will keep the memories alive for my children, that is after all the reason that I write.  It is starting to feel like this is the next Chapter.

And yet deep down I know that one day my boy will forget the moment that he looked over to me with tears in his eyes when he had been injured in a football match.  A look only he and I shared for the briefest of moments when only I knew that he was really hurt.  Followed swiftly by look of indignation that he would continue to run through it, despite my best motherly efforts to dissuade him.

Or the memory of sharing ice creams on Filey beach that the girl holds dear, hers was the delicious lemon ice cream she still assures me.  Or the day she nearly won her cross country race wearing a school hoody too big for her and as she ran my heart soared with pride.

So much to the annoyance of my ever patient husband, I recently applied for us to appear on a children’s television show called Our Family.  It is the girl’s favourite.  She knows every single child on the show.  Of course straight after I had put us forward, I instantly regretted being so bold, because we were then shortlisted to the final few.

There is a method to my madness though…

You see they are going to film us as a family, with good quality cameras not like the one I have on my phone that only captures the odd funny five minute episode at home.  They will film our querky little habits, our favourite foods, our messy house, our day trips on a steam train and even our favourite beach that the children love oh so much.  They will film all of this and capture it for the children to watch forevermore, and that in itself is priceless.

Now I have to be honest here and say that the filming has often knocked the stuffing out of me.  We have regularly become accustomed to packing several fun things into a weekend, where we would normally just managed the one.  It has taken me a few days to recover each time & all the while I have been hoping that the final footage of us will show us as we really are.  The children I have noticed, are becoming more and more attached to the film crew because each one of them is so lovely.  Last time they left at the end of the weekend Noah declared he didn’t want them to go – and neither did we really.  During the break sessions we all happily put the kettle on and chat and joke as if we have known each other for years.

There are a few more weekends to go, and one special one in particular will be filmed on our favourite beach.  The weather most probably will be windy and hopefully sunny enough for us to collect shells and walk along the shore as we always do.  And that is just our little family, it is just what we do, all the normal things, nothing special to anyone but us.

To me.

It is tiring (according to my husband I am always tired nowadays) but it has been great fun at the same time. The next chapter of our lives begins, and as I scramble around trying to record the memories – I also marvel at what wonderful little people my children are becoming.  In amongst the daily hustle and bustle I often stop and make a wish that I will see this through, and I truly hope that I do.

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The new episode of Our Family begins on Monday 27th March – we only feature on the titles *waving* for the first ten episodes, I think our episodes begin in May.  I hope it shows our family in its true light, and I almost wish they could show the outtakes as there has been some very funny moments (my own particular highlight was my husband making train sandwiches with the kids).  It has been truly wonderful experience for us all, one which Noah & Isla will never forget.

I am hoping, just hoping that one day as memories fade this little piece of ‘us’ will remind them of all the smiles & laughter, if only for a moment.

 

 

To Gaz – thank you for filming for me, I promise no cameras will come to Italy on our next holiday

Jigsaws – a new addition

Something lovely happened in our world two weeks ago, and I have been dying to say it out loud ever since.

My sister had a baby!

It has been like a huge secret that I have been bursting to share, and I can feel a ridiculous grin spread across my face as I type because it really is the best thing that has happened to our family in quite sometime.  Nowadays the prevalence of social media means that you have to be careful when getting excited about someone else’s news, and of course it has not been my news to ‘tell’ really so I have kept quiet (well as quiet as is possible for me).

When I first read Lisa Lynch’s blog Alright Tit.com there was a point where she found out that she was to be an auntie to her brother’s baby entitled Auntie Gobby.  This little moment of happiness, of hope, she fixated on and she clung to with everything that she had.  I now understand all of her feelings, because all of a sudden we have something positive to focus on – something that matters so much more than any of the small things.  My mum is a proud granny, my sister and I are humming with excitement, the children are excited to teach the new addition to the family all of their naughty ways.  For months the children have tried to guess whether it would be a boy or a girl, Noah wanting it to be a boy as we are girl heavy on our side of the family.  Isla willing it to be a girl, and choosing a very traditional name Emily, which I knew my sister and her husband would never opt for.  We went to great lengths to explain to them that it did not matter whether it was a boy or a girl because the most important thing was that the baby was healthy, this of course fell on deaf ears, because the boy wanted ‘team boy’ and the girl ‘team girl’ in the most obvious child like way.

Well she is a girl, and a very perfect one at that.  She has dark hair like my sister’s girls but lighter skin like Noah.  She has a look of my niece when she was a baby, but at the same time she has a look of her very own.

It is difficult for me to explain my feelings about my new niece other than to say that there are certain times in your life that fit together like a jigsaw.  Ashani Lye is one of the missing pieces of my jigsaw, I haven’t even met her yet (which is hurting my heart) but she has fit right in just where she belongs.  She is a miracle baby in more ways than one, and there is no doubt in my mind that she will continue to be very special indeed.

Isn’t life funny? one minute you are rushing around, never quite taking stock of the important things, and the next minute something so wonderful happens that forces you to stop and realise that the privilege of life is a wonderful thing.  I suppose that is just the way it is, and I more than anyone should know that.  A lot of the time my jigsaw is at the confusing strewn all over the floor stage and some of the time I stare around at it and think ‘where the hell do I even begin?’. Sometimes though, just sometimes, everything seems to fit into place.

The new addition to the family has brought things into sharp focus for me.  A few years ago when we were considering the possibilities of IVF treatment before my chemotherapy began, I had a very different view.  We had decided not to have anymore children.  We had concluded that we were more than satisfied with our ‘lot’ in life.  We had two healthy children and as we sat in the consultation room we decided that we would leave things up to nature from now on.  We were well aware of the side effects of chemotherapy, and yet do you know what?  It was still an incredibly difficult pill to swallow for me personally (you would have to ask my husband how he felt about it all).  Even though we knew we were lucky, and even though we decided to put my health first – the reality of someone telling you that you will not be having anymore children and the decision being taken out of your hands is as unfair as life gets I think.  So much so, that when good friends of ours announced they were expecting again I burst into tears, completely irrationally of course because I was so happy for them, but I felt selfishly sad for something that maybe could have been.  Having said all this I am left with more than my hands full, and in reality a third child would have left us squarely outnumbered I am sure.

The past few weeks both myself and my sister have worried so much for our younger sibling as we know only too well that being a mum is hard.  On the day(s) she was in labour I had a fleeting conversation with my cousin, stating out loud that I wished I could have gone through it for her.  Of course I couldn’t, but the want to protect someone you care about from going through unimaginable pain is a real one.  Everyday we are dying to ‘help’ or impart knowledge from our own experiences, but she doesn’t really need that, all she really needs is sleep… and perhaps a hot shower.

And so I will continue to grin at my little darling niece.  The baby who makes me smile a ridiculous grin each time I see her.  The baby who cheers my whole day up in her little combat onesie, and the day dreaming thoughts of finally having my cuddles with her.  She makes me forget about things that have been, and look towards the nicer things to come.

A little reminder that life goes on, one of the final pieces of my jigsaw for sure.

 

To Jay and Paul, thank you for making us all smile (and sorry in advance for anything her cousins teach her in the future)

Source Art: Yolande Sanchez and Disney image from Pinterest, Alexazdesign Etsy.

 

One Last Smile – the day they brought you home

I have written a poem for a friend of mine, who lost her battle with breast cancer, and well because when all is said and done, home is the most important place to be.

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One Last Smile

It was nearly Christmas time, on the day they brought you home.

They wanted you to stay, of course, but you would not hear them say.  There was somewhere more important that you had to be that day.

Away from wires, and tubes, and the oxygen, you came.  For there was somewhere very special that you had to be again.

Through the hills, past streets and houses, you drove on by to be.  Round bends and winding corners, until only you could see.

A very special place, the only place, it seemed.  That you could finally be you, and you could finally be free.

For it was family & friends for you, that proved the greatest treasures of all.  A Yorkshire girl through and through – it made you stand up, and feel tall.

Just down that cobbled hill, and in through the front door you roamed.  Everyone was waiting, on that day they brought you home.

The fire lit, the laughter rang, and the dog barked happily.  Your husband hugged you tight, your children beamed, as they held to their mummy.  For you had returned on that day, through the cold and wintery streets.  You had come home again, to settle at your seat.

Your sister and your mum held so tightly to your hand, that they dare not let it go.  And so, you whispered in their ears, for you had wished that it would snow.

All of your favourite people, in one room, just for you.  Your best friends looked on to watch, they did not want to let you to go.

Your darling twins and nephew brought you hugs and kisses too.  And you stopped to pause, just once for breath, as you smiled at them anew.

This was, for you at least, the most perfect place to be.  Right back where you belonged, at home, with family.

As the wine began to flow and the dancing did commence, the happiness within your heart could scarcely take it all in.

You hugged those dear to you, and laughed, and joked, as the tears filled up your eyes.  How lucky you felt to be, and proud, to have this precious prize.

In amongst the singing you stopped, and paused, once more.  To catch your breath, and take it in, on that day they brought you home.

For out of the small window, just beyond the light, you noticed a small snow flake, it was just within your sight.  And as you went to touch it, you knew your time had come, to gently let go, of the kind arms of your mum.

It was a wish so softly spoken that no one else would see you hear.  Not even those who held your hand, the ones you held most dear.

And so you slipped on your coat quietly, for it was time for you to leave.

You did not wish to say goodbye, as you caught their eyes, and then.  One last look, one last smile, one last touch. You did not dare look back again.

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For it was snowing gently as you left, and all your wishes had come true.  From down the cobbled hill you could hear the angels calling you.

The coldness of the Yorkshire air gently beckoning you in.  As you wandered through the snow once more, past the stables, just like The Inn.

You had done what you set out to do, you had made it home again.  On Christmas Day far far away, from anywhere but them.

As the snow flakes began to settle, on the cobbles and the stone.

Your heart, it swelled, your head held high,

on that day they brought you home.

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For Wendy – I am glad you made it home again, all my love.

 

 

 

Repaying a kindness – always remember

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I am not sure what you call it, but I will try to explain regardless.

The most simple words I can find are, well, working class. Do we still cling to the class system?  Are we still defined by our parent’s social status?  Possibly or possibly not so much nowadays.  And yet on an evening when I have fielded questions about who is Grandma’s mummy, and who was her mummy? and eventually who will be my own children’s children’s grandma, and once answered – the then inevitable, but what if you die mummy?

I find myself back in the thought process of what I would like my children to know – you know what if.  So I shall address the rest of my message to the only people who really count… my Noah … my Isla…

Well my loves therein lies another lesson for you and I will try to explain the best way I know how.  You must always, always, pay back a kindness that is shown to you.  Always.

There is no doubt that your daddy & I have some of the qualities of the working class.

Honesty, integrity, hard working and kind.  You probably won’t fully understand what I am telling you until you are much older, perhaps with families of your own and even then, who you will become and how hard you work will just be a part of you – it will be in your heart & soul.

This time last year I was recovering from treatment, a treatment that I received for free on the NHS.  All of the appointments, the surgery, the therapy, the drugs and treatment, all of it for free.  Had I been on a private healthcare plan I would have seen each part of my care broken down pound for pound, and yet I received the same level of care regardless.  And to say I am grateful is an understatement, however, sometimes to be grateful is not enough.

When you have been brought up with good values, sound values, you understand the ideology that when a kindness is done to you, you return that kindness – many times over where ever you can.

So tomorrow on the 9th October your daddy will be running the York Marathon.  He’s not a runner – he has trained, sure, but the reason he is running at all is because of me.  You see, I am the love of his life.  Now we don’t go in for soppiness, your dad and I.  We have never even spoken about it – and yet I know that he feels the same way that I do.  We share the same values in life.

You must always repay a kindness.

So tomorrow is the big day.  The day Gareth Matthews will run the York Marathon.  He is not a runner.    And yet… every single step your daddy takes tomorrow will be for me, for my nurses, doctors, surgeons – a thank you for a deed done to us that weighed far greater than we can ever repay.

Be proud my loves.  Be proud of every step your daddy takes as he is no ‘natural’ runner and yet he is putting himself out there, he is running twenty six miles all for one person, and one person only.

Your mummy.

Tomorrow we will wake up early & wish him well.  We will cheer him on. We will fight against the cruel disease that takes families apart.  For it has not taken us, not yet anyway.  Daddy is running the whole thing for love and the thanks that we owe to St James’ hospital in Leeds & Yorkshire Cancer Trust.  Every single step.

So thank you, a huge thank you to all concerned.  There will never be enough thanks I don’t suppose, but if there ever was someone to look upto in your lives my little ones – you see your daddy over there? Gareth Matthews?

He is the best daddy in the world, and he is all yours…

Thank you – from the bottom of my heart Gareth Matthews for repaying the kindness paid to us all last year.

It means the world.

If you would like to contribute to Gareth’s race his page is here

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Gareth-Matthews4

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A Champagne Supernova

I don’t often speak about my husband.

This is not because I don’t love him, or that he is not a big part of my life, it is just that the daily things that parenting entails means that ‘us’ seems to get lost somewhere in the background.

We have been friends for many years and I have been reminded several times lately how lucky I am to be married to such a ‘nice lad’.

There are however several things that irritate or ‘irk’ him about me (that I know of).

One of these things is that I do not know the real words to songs and so, not to be defeated, I often make up the words as I sing along regardless.  This perhaps would not annoy any normal person, but my husband likes his music, he knows his music.  I however know what I like, and like what I know.

We do share a love for several musical icons – however our largest difference in opinion has always been his love for the band Oasis.  They were his college band, they remind him of his young and carefree days, he has every album and has seen them live many times.  I have known this of course since we first met, but they are just ‘not my cup of tea’.

If we all liked the same things in life, it would make us very dull

It is a good thing I think to not share all of the same interests or likes, I suppose if we did life would be very boring.  Of course when he learned one of his idols was due to play in our home town he excitedly bought tickets and asked if I would go too.  I love live music and we don’t often get the chance to have an old fashioned date, and so I agreed.  The last time we arranged to go out together it was to watch a movie premier for his birthday just before Christmas, but time went on by and we never made it.  We only realised this as we ordered the film on our home movies very recently.

The second thing that we have always disagreed about is Space.  The galaxy, the universe, the stars and the planets.  My husband is a scientist, I am not.  I am more than happy to believe in the proven areas of the universe but I struggle with the idea of alien life forms and black holes.  Any of our close friends would laugh at the heated debates that we have had over the years that we have been together.

On the whole though, and putting these things aside I am sure that he would tell you that we are the best of friends. 

The evening of the gig came along, and we headed out like the old days the pre-children days.  The weather was dreary, it rained constantly and it was grey but the stadium wasn’t far away.  We shared noodles as we ate on the move and we shared an umbrella unsuccessfully.  Instantly relaxing in each others company we ordered drinks and met briefly with some friends.  I had decided that I would go with an open mind and enjoy the music and the time spent on a real evening out with my husband, because they are oh so rare.

As it turned out the music was in fact, good.  There were some old favourites that everyone knew the words to (even me) and some new ones that the die hard fans knew too.  The evening seemed to fly by and my husband sang to pretty much every song.  I think we were both taken back to those college days just for a moment in time – and it was nice, really nice.

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The song Champagne Supernova was played and I realised that I knew (most of) the words, but probably in reality I made some of my own up too.  Apparently when writing the song, the lyrics had differing meanings for differing moods in which they were written.  Ironically that explanation sums up my mind-set at the moment too.  I have probably not been the easiest person to live with, I admit that, and yet oddly when music is played everything suddenly seems better.

As the last song was played Don’t Look Back In Anger rang out and the whole stadium joined in, we changed from two tired parents into a happy couple again.  We got the train home and we felt as if we had been given a little lift.  Quality time spent together when tiredness, work, and family usually take precedent is priceless.

I realised that we really should make more time for each other – to add to our memories together – as the best things in life are often unseen.

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I’m no expert- I wish I was

There comes a time in life when you realise that somethings just happen.

I won’t say they happen for a reason, although they probably do, but more that they just happen and it seems that there is nothing we can do to change it at all.

There are some who have lost dear friends.

Friends they have known their whole lives throughout childhood.  Friends who have been with them through thick & thin, through the very best of times and the very worst of times.  Friends who are not really friends, but somehow became family along the way.

There are some who have lost a family member.

And it doesn’t seem fair, and it doesn’t seem right, that the very special bond is torn apart by illness and life.  A mother or father, or sister or brother, who can never, and will never be forgotten.

There are some who have lost children, the most unspeakable thing of all.  The biggest injustice of all.  When a parent would gladly swap places with their child without hesitation.

There are some who have lost those from the older generation.  A most treasured member of the family.  The person who has always been there, always.

Life can be so cruel.  There is no rhyme nor reason I am finding more and more.

Of course I am no expert (I wish I was) and I don’t always know what to say in the right places, but I do know one thing – life is strange.

Taking the time to listen, taking the time to understand means more than you will ever know.

Once a heart is broken it can’t be fixed.

Time heals, slowly, but it does.

Appreciate every moment with those you love and smile at the precious memories of those who have gone.

Somethings in life just happen.

I am no expert.

I only wish I was.

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My Best Friend’s Wedding – a treasured day

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I love my kids, I do but there has to be times when you take advantage of a ‘childless’ weekend and go back to being, well an adult again.

Finally the day had arrived of my best friend’s wedding, so we packed the kids off to grandma’s and headed off to celebrate our friend’s big day.

It was just what was needed to take my mind off the coming week of treatment.

The wedding had been planned for months.  It was on the calendar – the invite pride of place on the fridge and the dress I had bought myself (pre weight gain) had been hanging on the back of our bedroom door for months as a reminder of something to look forward to.

I had ashamedly missed the hen do, a thing I would never even consider normally – but unfortunately it followed a week of treatment and I just knew that my body just wouldn’t handle it (even with the promise of endless amounts of Prosecco).

Luckily the wedding itself fell at the end of my ‘good week’ before the final chemo session, so all things being equal I should have been on top form.

Having said that, there are many things that are tough to handle when going through the recovery of breast cancer, and anxiety is one of them.

In truth, as the week progressed leading up to the wedding I became more and more anxious about actually going out ‘publicly’.  The thought of questions or looks or even hugs (threatening to turn me into an emotional wreck) all became a little overwhelming.  I was determined to ignore these ever- growing feelings though, and even more determined to celebrate my friend’s day.

The ceremony itself was beautiful.

Held in a nearby church, our friends were glowing with happiness.  Afterwards we all made our way to the reception which was held in a Tipi – very original and unique.  As we walked towards the tent my nerves faded as we were greeted with the sound of music, laughter and such a relaxed atmosphere.  Old friends greeted us with smiles and hugs and the sunshine came out from behind the grey clouds.

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We all sat on the hay bales outside the tent and chatted through the afternoon.  The husbands became more and more rowdy, and the photos recorded all of the typical wedding shenanigans you would expect.  At one stage the need to say ‘sod it’ and grab a large glass of white wine was getting stronger (the need to be finally normal again) – but I also knew my limits on that day.  I was happy to just be a part of it all.

Going to weddings and not drinking are very different experiences to alcohol fuelled ones there’s no doubt – but you also get to notice more of the important parts of the day too.

That day was about two people and two people only.  They smiled and danced and kissed and they were truly in love.  It reminded me of our wedding day and the happiness we shared together all those years ago with the same friends.

As the evening set in and the dancing got underway it was time for us to leave.  My husband had fallen asleep in a corner somewhere (a normal occurence for those who know us) and so we said our goodbyes to our hosts and made our way home.

It was a perfect day, and in the end even the tears in the eyes of my friends upon us leaving didn’t upset me as much as I’d thought they would.

Driving home I realised that it was days like that which would make me stronger.

I had a tough week of treatment ahead, but that day was exactly what I needed to help me focus on the life that I could have again – a life beyond breast cancer.